The Need For Rationality
In contrast to a previously held Extra Mural Lecture about ‘Vedic Sciences’, on Wednesday (23th January), the EML team organized a lecture on the ‘Need for rational thinking’. The speaker was Mr. Narendra Nayak, a medical biologist by profession and a well known rationalist who had worked for 28 years as a teacher of biochemistry at Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore. He also happens to be the current president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, an apex body of more than 65 atheist, rationalist and humanist groups in India and a member of Folks Magazine’s Editorial Board.
Mr. Nayak, over the years, has traveled to many villages and towns across the world to debunk superstitions and expose ‘godmen’ who exploit people. Through the lecture, he tried to bring some of these claims to the forefront and clearly indicate the difference between science and pseudo-science. He spoke about ’so-called religious miracles’ and also debunked the ‘myth of homeopathic medicine’. He claimed that almost every religious ‘miracle’ was a trick in disguise, and that he was not against people practicing religion, but against the use of it to promote superstition.
“As the largest scientific manpower on earth, are we doing enough to reach out to people?” he asked the gathered students. He remarked about the top brass of various scientific institutions in India praising these ’so-called godmen’ and their rituals, and called for such things to be stopped.
The lecture itself was quite captivating, and had the audience of around 300 very involved. However, it took an even more interesting turn towards the end, when the Dean of Students, Prof. L.S.Ganesh was called upon stage to hand over a memento to the speaker. Prof. Ganesh had objections to the Mr. Nayak’s claims about Satya Sai Baba and said that he (and another professor) had visited the late guru once and witnessed firsthand the creation of a ring within his palm, from thin air. In reaction to this, the speaker himself recreated the same trick on stage in an attempt to demonstrate its falsity, amidst some laughter from the crowd. Prof. Ganesh also claimed to believe in the power of homeopathic medicine and recalled examples wherein two german shepherds and a 2-month-old baby had been cured by it. “Absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence,” said Prof. Ganesh. “Just because there is no evidence of the existence of something, you cannot debunk it. It is human arrogance to think that we know everything,” he went on. At this point, the stipulated time for the lecture was over, and the whole affair was called off, with Prof. Ganesh, the speaker, and a few students still discussing the issue.
A video of the lecture, along with the question-and-answer session towards the end, and Prof. Ganesh’s discussion with the speaker has been uploaded by the EML team :
Addendum on Feb 13th 2013: Prof L S Ganesh, Dean (Students), clarifies his stance with regard to the events that transpired during the lecture.
The report states: “Prof. Ganesh had objections to the Mr. Nayak’s claims about Satya Sai Baba and said that he (and another professor) had visited the late guru once and witnessed firsthand the creation of a ring within his palm, from thin air.”
I did not object to Mr. Nayak’s claims. In fact, Mr. Nayak explained many of these surreptitious acts of “godmen” very effectively and i thoroughly enjoyed his talk. I was very curious about my past, and the only one, interaction I had with SSB (or whatever may be his real name) and wished to learn Mr. Nayak’s explanation of how SSB conjured the trick, which I had pointed out. I wish Mr. Nayak would have given a “rational” explanation by fully reproducing SSB’s conjuring act. Mr. Nayak instead did what he did, viz., did not fully reproduce SSB’s conjuring act. This does not imply that I am SSB’s devotee or supporter, or Mr. Nayak’s opponent or detractor. Perhaps, Mr. Nayak needs to master his “magic” a little more, and i wish him well for the sake of the many who are misled and used by crafty, evil godmen.
“In reaction to this, the speaker himself recreated the same trick on stage in an attempt to demonstrate its falsity, amidst some laughter from the crowd.”
As I’ve pointed out above, the speaker did not recreate the same trick – I wish he would have. How badly can an audience be befuddled? No wonder that SSB’s and Nayak’s revel respectively in their trade and work.
Also, I believe that the number of applauders or the loudness of their applause cannot substitute or imply the truth, in any instance or at any time.
My views on homeopathy: Has been neither proven nor disproven – all the “reviewed papers”, “controlled experiments” and BBC programmes notwithstanding. The debates are on, with each side claiming victories (sic!) and faulting the others. I only recounted instances concerning me, my family members and pets, in which homeopathy worked as a cure, and continues to cure till date. Yes, this is personal and anecdotal, but, what the heck, I need cure and I am getting it, my family members and pets need cure and are getting it – short- and long-term – from homeopathy. Given my experiences with homeopathy, I do not care if it works through the placebo effect or otherwise. If i find that homeopathy does not work in any instance concerning me, i will, obviously, seek a cure through another approach, perhaps ayurveda. Everyone seeks cure – short- and long-term – when they suffer from acute and/or chronic conditions of the body-mind complex. And, about the placebo effect of homeopathy, I remain as skeptic as ever.
In a lighter vein, there was one student who was desperate to intervene, and stated that he was cured of an illness by “not having any food at all”. Of course, the audience laughed. I wish the student well and hope that he will gain short- and long-term cure in all instances of his sickness by “not having any food at all”. “Langanam paramam aushadham”. Everyone needs cure not morbidity.
I do not wish to engage in any personal vilification or indulge in innuendo, and will not continue any further with this thread, which in my opinion includes a few intellectual aliases. Our lives, experiences and “karma” are only ours and cannot belong to anyone else. The last word is yet to be stated on these “conscious” experiences. The QED is yet to be written. I wish everyone – whom I’d refer to as “pieces of consciousness” – peace, fine health, good humour and prosperity. Of course, if anyone wishes to discuss subjects, such as those above, with me, my doors are always open, and I will be as friendly, smiling, truthful and warm as I can be. As i’ve been so far, to the best of my knowledge and consciousness, I wish to remain a humble, curious and sincere student in the school of life as long as this “conscious experience” lasts. Later? Well, who knows?